Tuesday, August 16, 2016

US Army chief visits China amid missile system tensions

From the Philippine Star (Aug 17): US Army chief visits China amid missile system tensions

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, introduces members of his staff to China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Li Zuocheng, right, during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. AP/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool

The U.S. Army chief of staff told Chinese officials during a visit Tuesday that China should not feel threatened by American ally South Korea's decision to deploy a powerful U.S. missile defense system.

Gen. Mark A. Milley met with his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, and other senior People's Liberation Army leaders amid strong Chinese protests over the decision to base the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system south of the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Milley reiterated the American position that the defense system is intended to destroy possible North Korean missiles and not to track missiles inside China. Milley said THAAD is not a threat to China, the U.S. Army said in a statement.

Chinese state media have published daily attacks against the U.S. and South Korea over the missile defense system, and China has canceled events involving South Korean entertainers. China also appears to be withholding support at the United Nations for condemnations of North Korea's missile programs.

Milley's visit also comes amid friction following an international arbitration panel's ruling last month that invalidated China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. China angrily rejected the verdict and has vowed to continue developing man-made islands that the U.S. says have exacerbated tensions in the strategically crucial region.

According to the U.S. Army statement, Milley told Chinese officials the U.S. was committed to following international rules "and encouraged the Chinese to do the same as a way to reduce regional tensions."

Highlighting the issue, the interior minister of Taiwan, one of the six governments to claim territory in the South China Sea, planned to travel to Taiping Island where it maintains a garrison.

The visit is "aimed at understanding climate change issues as well as underscoring Taiwan's sovereignty," the official Central News Agency quoted Taiwanese officials as saying.

Tensions have also spiked in recent days between China and Japan over a chain of uninhabited islands controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing. Japan last week called in the Chinese ambassador to protest over a large increase in the number of Chinese coast guard and fishing ships operating in waters surrounding the islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.

Following his Beijing meetings, Milley is to travel to South Korea to meet with U.S. troops and hold discussions with South Korean military leaders on the THAAD deployment and other issues. He then is to travel to another key U.S. ally and Chinese rival, Japan.


War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable

From Rand (Aug 2016): War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable

Go to the following URL for a PDF copy of the report:

Research Questions
  1. What are the alternative paths that China and the United States might take before and during a war?
  2. What are the effects on both countries of each path?
  3. What preparations should the United States make, both to reduce the likelihood of war and, should war break out, to ensure victory while minimizing losses and costs?
Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored. Thus, while neither state wants war, both states' militaries have plans to fight one. As Chinese anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be so certain that war would follow its plan and lead to decisive victory. This analysis illuminates various paths a war with China could take and their possible consequences.
Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other's forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first. This implies fierce early exchanges, with steep military losses on both sides, until one gains control. At present, Chinese losses would greatly exceed U.S. losses, and the gap would only grow as fighting persisted. But, by 2025, that gap could be much smaller.

Even then, however, China could not be confident of gaining military advantage, which suggests the possibility of a prolonged and destructive, yet inconclusive, war. In that event, nonmilitary factors — economic costs, internal political effects, and international reactions — could become more important.

Political leaders on both sides could limit the severity of war by ordering their respective militaries to refrain from swift and massive conventional counterforce attacks. The resulting restricted, sporadic fighting could substantially reduce military losses and economic harm. This possibility underscores the importance of firm civilian control over wartime decisionmaking and of communication between capitals. At the same time, the United States can prepare for a long and severe war by reducing its vulnerability to Chinese A2AD forces and developing plans to ensure that economic and international consequences would work to its advantage.
Key Findings
Unless Both U.S. and Chinese Political Leaders Decline to Carry Out Counterforce Strategies, the Ability of Either State to Control the Ensuing Conflict Would Be Greatly Impaired
  • Both sides would suffer large military losses in a severe conflict. In 2015, U.S. losses could be a relatively small fraction of forces committed, but still significant; Chinese losses could be much heavier than U.S. losses and a substantial fraction of forces committed.
  • This gap in losses will shrink as Chinese A2AD improves. By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities.
  • China's A2AD will make it increasingly difficult for the United States to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war.

Conflict Could Be Decided by Domestic Political, International, and Economic Factors, All of Which Would Favor the United States in a Long, Severe War
  • Although a war would harm both economies, damage to China's would be far worse.
  • Because much of the Western Pacific would become a war zone, China's trade with the region and the rest of the world would decline substantially.
  • China's loss of seaborne energy supplies would be especially damaging.
  • A long conflict could expose China to internal political divisions.
  • Japan's increased military activity in the region could have a considerable influence on military operations.
  • U.S. and Chinese political leaders alike should have military options other than immediate strikes to destroy opposing forces.
  • U.S. leaders should have the means to confer with Chinese leaders and contain a conflict before it gets out of hand.
  • The United States should guard against automaticity in implementing immediate attacks on Chinese A2AD and have plans and means to prevent hostilities from becoming severe. Establishing "fail safe" arrangements will guarantee definitive, informed political approval for military operations.
  • The United States should reduce the effect of Chinese A2AD by investing in more-survivable force platforms (e.g., submarines) and in counter-A2AD (e.g., theater missiles).
  • The United States should conduct contingency planning with key allies, especially Japan.
  • The United States should ensure that the Chinese are specifically aware of the potential for catastrophic results even if a war is not lost militarily.
  • The United States should improve its ability to sustain intense military operations.
  • U.S. leaders should develop options to deny China access to war-critical commodities and technologies in the event of war.
  • The United States should undertake measures to mitigate the interruption of critical products from China.
  • Additionally, the U.S. Army should invest in land-based A2AD capabilities, encourage and enable East Asian partners to mount strong defense, improve interoperability with partners (especially Japan), and contribute to the expansion and deepening of Sino-U.S. military-to-military understanding and cooperation to reduce dangers of misperception and miscalculation.


Study: Possible China-US war will linger in East Asia

From the Philippine Star (Aug 17): Study: Possible China-US war will linger in East Asia

US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Li Zuocheng, right, salute during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. AP/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool

A possible war between China and the United States (US) would start and remain in East Asia where nearly all Chinese forces are located, according to a new study published by an international research organization.

In its study entitled "War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable," California-based Rand Corp. said that both China and the US wants war but both of their militaries have plans to fight one.

A war between the two countries would be regional and conventional, according to the study.

"It would be waged mainly by ships on and beneath the sea, by aircraft and missiles of many sorts, and in space (against satellites) and cyberspace (against computer systems)," the report read.

However, it is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used as the two nations regard its losses as serious.

The report also assumes that China is unlikely to attack the US homeland, except through cyberspace, given its capability to do so with conventional weapons.

Each party's ability to track and attack opposing forces may turn the Western Pacific into a "war zone" and may have grave economic consequences.

As US military advantage declines, China is improving its military capabilities, particularly for anti-access and area denial. This means that the US cannot gain operational control and destroy China's defenses if a war occurred.

"Sensors, weapon guidance, digital networking, and other information technologies used to target opposing forces have advanced to the point where both US and Chinese military forces seriously threaten each other," Rand Corp. said.

Chinese losses would greatly exceed US losses at present but the gap could be much smaller by 2025. China, however, would still be not confident of gaining military advantage.

This suggests the possibility of a prolonged, destructive and inconclusive war where economic costs, internal political effects and international reactions could be more important.

"War between the two countries could begin with devastating strikes; be hard to control; last months, if not years; have no winner; and inflict huge losses on both sides’ military forces," the report read.

Non-military effects would fall hardest on China but could also greatly harm the US economy, according to the study.

US leaders are urged to have means to confer and contain conflict before it gets "out of hand."

"The United States should ensure that the Chinese are specifically aware of the potential for catastrophic results even if a war is not lost militarily," Rand Corp. said.


Rody, communists discuss on how to shape up gov’t

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 16): Rody, communists discuss on how to shape up gov’t

Despite their apparent rift, President Duterte bared yesterday that he still has to tap the communist movement’s help on how to run the government.

In a speech yesterday at the Palace, Duterte said that he has met with leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) consulting them on how to shape his administration.

But contrary to his campaign declarations of entering into a “revolutionary coalition” government with the Reds, the President clarified that he’s only seeking the Left’s help.

“I was talking to the NDF panel and we had discussions on how to shape up government without necessarily going to the complicated task of coalition because I don’t think it would work,” Duterte said in his speech.

As if implying that his really true to his being a self-proclaimed socialist or leftist, Duterte said that he is inspired to build a socialist-like government without, obviously, jeopardizing the authority of state security forces.

His consultations with the NDF — whose CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison is President Duterte’s college professor —will accordingly resume after the presumptive results of the forthcoming peace talks between the NDF and the Philippine Government (GRP) in Oslo, Norway in less than two weeks.

Duterte hinted that he might give a more free hand to the Left after the first round of the GRP-NDF talks.

“I said maybe what will come out of these talks in Oslo, I would retain the control of military and police and they can have the mundane matters of government,” the President said.


Reds expect Duterte to issue new truce

From The Daily Tribune (Aug 17): Reds expect Duterte to issue new truce

National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo bared yesterday that President Duterte has hinted at resuming a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels after both met at the Palace last Monday.

“We discussed matters that could be reiterated in the resumption of the (peace) talks in Oslo, Norway such as the declaration of an interim ceasefire with the (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” Ocampo said in a phone interview with reporters.

It is recalled that in one of his speeches last week, Duterte said that he is trying to avoid committing another mistake after his botched unilateral ceasefire with the Reds that was not reciprocated by the rebels.

An NPA ambush on state militiamen that resulted in the death of one Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member prompted Duterte to withdraw the ceasefire. “(Duterte) said that he will forget his word war with (Sison), saying that their exchange of harsh words will not deter them from pursuing peace,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo added that Duterte is open in granting the request of other NDF political prisoners from detention due to humanitarian reasons.

Among those named by left-leaning human rights groups for immediate release on humani-tarian grounds are alleged top CPP leaders Adelberto Silva, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, Ramon Argente, Concha Araneta-Bocala, and Alex Birondo.

Silva, 68, a consultant for the NDF and is believed to be the CPP chairman, had undergone quadruple angioplasty before he was arrested on June 15, 2015.

Austria-Tiamzon, also who was the CPP secretary general during her arrest, has spondylolisthesis (forward displacement of vertebrae), hypertension and carotid artery occlusion.

Araneta-Bocala, 65,  has weak lungs because of a history of pneumonia. She also has ulcer, recurring lumbar pain due to scoliosis, anemia, vertigo, goiter, and recurring pain in her left eye, which was operated on previously.

Freeing of NDF figures starts

The temporary release of detained NDF leaders started with the release of Jaime Soledad in Ormoc City late Monday night, Kennedy Bangibang from Kalinga and Renante Gamara from the Special Intensive Care Area - 1 of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Soledad was acquitted from murder charges last week while Bangibang’s motion for bail for murder and robbery charges was granted yesterday.

As for Gamara, who is charged with two separate cases, Branch 65 of the Infanta Regional Trial Court issued a release order for murder and frustrated murder charges while Branch 266 of the Taguig RTC has also issued the release order for murder with kidnapping charges.

Also, the Iloilo RTC granted the bail petition of top communist leader in Panay island, 65 year old Concha Araneta.

On the other hand, as of 4 p.m. yesterday, courts are also expected to urgently accommodate the motions of other detained rebels Alan Jazmines, Ernesto Lorenzo, Alexander Birondo, Winona Birondo and Ruben Saluta.

Last week, RTC Manila Branch 32 granted the motion for release on Bail for alleged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairmen Benito Tiamzon and Adelberto Silva and CPP secretary general Wilma Austria-Tiamzon.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, in a text message to the Daily Tribune, said  the efforts that the government shows in anticipation of the peace talks set on August 20 in Oslo, Norway are meant to demonstrate that the Duterte administration remains  sincere in its commitment to resume the peace talks with the CPP-NDF.

“Releases of NDF leaders going through normal judicial processes are in step with the government’s intentions of making them available in the forthcoming resumption of peace negotiations,” Dureza told the Tribune.

The Tiamzon couple, however, will remain in the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center because the courts handling their cases have yet to issue orders for their release, a police official said.

In a report by Chief Supt. Philip Philips, the director of the PNP Headquarters and Support Service, to PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, the PNP has so far received one court order for the temporary release of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Phillips told Dela Rosa prior to a PNP command conference that they are still awaiting the  release orders that will come from three other courts hearing the cases of the Tiamzons.

Once the PNP HSS getd all the court orders, the police would release the couple, Phillips said.

The Tiamzons will be part of the formal peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway, this month.

The Tiamzon couple are facing charges of illegal possession of firearms, explosives and ammunitions and harboring of criminals following their arrest in Cebu in March 2014.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa said he expected the CPP-NPA to withdraw its support from the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign so the organization could maintain its relevance in the eyes of the public.

In its statement, the CPP said it will no longer join the anti-drug campaign of the Duterte administration, branding it as anti-people.

The government thrust isn’t addressing the core issues in the society that lead to proliferation of illegal narcotics, CPP said. The campaign also put poor people to the disadvantage while the privileged and influential are treated differently, it added.

Oslo talks pursued

“The President assured NDF lawyers present during the meeting in Malacañang yesterday that the NDF consultants will fly to Oslo,” Labor Secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello said.

Bello, who heads the government panel negotiating with the NDF, will fly to the Middle East today to attend to concerns of overseas Filipino workers there and will immediately proceed to Europe for the talks.

“The President instructed the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist the NDF consultants who will be travelling to Oslo, Norway over the weekend for the formal talks slated for Monday next week, August 22,” GPH panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad said.

Several detained high-ranking NDF leaders have been allowed to post bail to be able join the peace negotiations in Oslo under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).

The government, upon orders of the President, did not pose objections to their temporary liberties to fast track the peace negotiations.

The CPP, along with its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA), is waging Asia’s longest running insurgency.

The NDF is the political umbrella of the CPP-NPA.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process  Dureza will head the Philippine delegation during the opening ceremonies.

Soldiers from NegOr securing Zamboanga

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 17): Soldiers from NegOr securing Zamboanga

The Army's 11th Infantry Battalion, which moved out of Negros island recently, is now assigned in Zamboanga City.

Col. Juvy Max Uy, Task Force Zamboanga chief, yesterday said that the 11IB will help secure Zamboanga City in Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has launched an all-out military operation against Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan and Sulu.

Uy is responsible for the security in Zamboanga, and he supervises all Army and Air Force units in the area.

Maj. Felimon Tan, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the additional troops stationed in Zamboanga City, apparently referring to the 11IB, form part of their security set up in the campaign against Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the AFP to end the kidnapping and other terroristic activities of the bandit group.

In 1995, the 11IB was among the units of the Army's 3 rd Infantry Division deployed to Mindanao. They returned to Negros in 1998.

On Monday, troopers of the 4th Special Forces Battalion seized the Abu Sayyaf stronghold in Barangay Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

The 4SFB troopers also recovered several improvised explosives devices and unexploded ordnances from the bandits' 10 bunkers, four tunnels and several foxholes.


US, China navies conduct search and rescue, maneuvering events

From Update.Ph (Aug 16): US, China navies conduct search and rescue, maneuvering events

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) man the rails before the ship breaks away from the People's Liberation Army (Navy) Jiangkai II class frigate Daqing (FFG 576) during a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) exercise.  US Navy photo

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) man the rails before the ship breaks away from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Jiangkai II class frigate Daqing (FFG 576) during a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) exercise. US Navy photo

The United States and China navies have conducted coordinated maneuvering events, Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), and a search-and-rescue (SAR) swimmer training event, the US Navy said. US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) visited Qindao, China from August 8 to 12.

US Navy said Benfold and PLA Navy’s Jiangkai II class frigate Daqing (FFG 576) practiced tactical signals to maneuver into lead and trail positions as well as CUES to facilitate clear and professional communication between the ships.

“This engagement helped to strengthen our continued use of CUES in an effort to reinforce international norms when operating in close proximity to each other,”
said USS Benfold operations officer aboard Lieutenant Christopher Ragsdale.

CUES is an agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea between the countries in the agreement, and – in the event that one occurred – to prevent it from escalating.

The final event in the engagement between two navies practiced search and rescue where both the Daqing and Benfold searched for, and rescued, simulated victims dropped by a Chinese Navy support ship.

USS Benfold is a US Navy destroyer forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. She is currently underway in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asian Pacific.


801st army camp, to become a rehab center

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 16): 801st army camp, to become a rehab center

The 801st army camp in Samar may become a rehabilitation center for drug dependents, says Brig Gen Cesar Idio in a press conference, recently.

Idio is the Deputy Commander of the 8th Infantry Division, the army camp that President Rodrigo Duterte visited on August 8.

He said that this was one of the things the army officers talked with the President in his visit to Samar.

The camp is big and there is no signal there, he told media that covered Samar Day.

The 801st Brigade Camp lies on a hilly part of Samar province close to the boundary of Eastern Samar and can accommodate many patients, if ever, added the army officer.

It is found in Barangay Fatima, Hinabangan, Samar. Idio said that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asked the army to identify army camps that can become possible sites for rehabilitation centers.


Army holds squad challenge among troops

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 16): Army holds squad challenge among troops

The 14 battalions of the 10th Infantry Divisions battled it out in their annual Squad and Disaster Response Operations Challenges on August 6-9 at their headquarters in Mawab, Compostela Valley.

10th ID Spokesperson Capt Rhyan Batchar said that the squads were evaluated on their performances in the simulation activities based on the three modules – Endurance, Knowledge and Skills Test, Battle Drills and Disaster Response.

Topping all the challenges was the squad from the 68th Infantry Battalion, who won both the Squad and Disaster Response Operations Challenges.

In the squad challenge, the groups from the 39th and 66th infantry battalions placed second and third respectively; while in the Disaster Response Challenge, squads from 28th and 27th infantry battalions came in next to the champion in order.

Special awards were also given including Best in Marksmanship to the 8th Infantry Battalion,  Best in Battle Drills to the 39th Infantry Battalion and Strongest Squad to the 46th Infantry Battalion.

Capt Batchar emphasized that the challenges also allowed them to assess the capability of the squads to follow the tasking and organization in the battalion level.

He said that the activity is a prelude of the 10th year anniversary of the 10th Infantry Division, which will be celebrated on August 18.

Capt Batchar bared that Major General Eduardo M. Año, the commanding general of the Philippine Army, will be the special guest during the anniversary celebration.

Among the events during the anniversary celebration will be the blessing of the new facilities in the division’s headquarters such as officers’ club, new gate, barracks and operations facility.


AFP realigns forces to stop cross-border kidnapping

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): AFP realigns forces to stop cross-border kidnapping

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is realigning some of its forces to stop cross-border kidnapping perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, disclosed that the 2nd Marine Brigade will be pulled out from the province of Sulu and will be deployed to Tawi-Tawi.

“We will strengthen the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, we will deploy a regular (marine) brigade there,” Dela Cruz said.

At present, a battalion of marine troops is based in Tawi-Tawi assisting the police forces in the maintenance of law and order in that province.

Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines sharing sea borders with Malaysia and Indonesia.

Dela Cruz said three Army battalions will be deployed as a replacement of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu and will be placed under the operational control of the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade.

The three Army battalions are part of the six battalions of troops the AFP will deploy to the area of Westmincom.

Dela Cruz said the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi will also address other problems such as human trafficking and smuggling aside from the cross-border kidnapping.

The ASG brigands are still holding captive seven Indonesian sailors, two Europeans and six Filipinos.

The ASG brigands seized the seven Indonesian sailors in the high seas of Indonesia on June 22 and herded them to the province of Sulu.

There are other victims of cross border kidnapping perpetrated by the ASG brigands but the hostages that included Indonesians and Malaysians were already released.

The Joint Task Force Sulu is continuously conducting focused military operations to rescue and pressure the ASG brigands to release their hostages.


DSWD-Caraga extends assistance to internally displaced lumads in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): DSWD-Caraga extends assistance to internally displaced lumads in Agusan del Sur

Fifty-six displaced lumad families in the municipality of Talacogon, Agusan del Sur received augmentation support from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Caraga .
A press statement from DSWD’s social marketing unit on Tuesday stated that 112 family food packs amounting to Php45, 000.00 were provided to the displaced families. Each pack contains six kilos of rice, eight tins of canned goods and six sachets of 3-in-1 coffee.
DSWD-Caraga said that prior to its augmentation support, the local government unit of Talacogon has already provided 112 food packs containing five kilos of rice, six cans of corned beef and six pieces of coffee sachets amounting to P31,360.00.
A report by the DSWD regional office here said that 56 lumad families from Purok 8, Barangay Zillovia evacuated from their homes at 1:00 p.m. on August 4. They left their houses upon learning of the presence of military personnel from the 26th Infantry Battalion of the 4th infantry Division (4ID) who conducted a community-based management information system (CBMIS) survey, interview and consultation with residents for the proposed road infrastructure and water system project in the area.
Allegedly, they were told by the New People’s Army (NPAs) that the project was just a military ploy, but in reality they will eventually be abused or even killed. As of date, they are temporarily sheltered at the gymnasium of Brgy. Zillovia.
DSWD-Caraga regional director Minda Brigoli assured that their agency’s field staff composed of Social Welfare and Development (SWAD) team and the municipal action team (MAT) are closely monitoring and continuously coordinating with the municipal social welfare and development office of Talacogon for any development on the welfare of the said lumad families.

President Duterte sees difficult talks ahead but open to settlement with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): President Duterte sees difficult talks ahead but open to settlement with Reds

But the series of armed encounters have exasperated the President who threatened to call off the peace negotiations if the NPA rebels continue to launch offensives and ambuscades against government troops.

But during the meeting in Malacañang yesterday, President Duterte said he is open to any proposal that "would address the root of rebellion in the countryside."

Also present during the meeting were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and BID commissioner Jaime Morante.

The GPH panel was also in complete attendance. Joining Bello in the meeting with the President was Librado-Trinidad, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza, and new GPH panel member Antonio Arellano, a retired regional state prosecutor in Region 11.

Arellano, who was detained by the Marcos government, is a close friend of President Duterte and is a former human rights lawyer like Bello.

Bello and Arellano were former anti-Marcos activists in Davao City, the home city of the President.

The NDF consultants who met with President Duterte were led by former Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo, NDF panel member Fidel Agcaoili and NDF lawyer Edre Olalia.

The Oslo talks are expected to tackle substantial issues on socio economic reforms, political and constitution reforms, security and immunity guarantees, cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.


PNP: Tiamzons to remain in custody as they await more court orders for temporary freedom

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): PNP: Tiamzons to remain in custody as they await more court orders for temporary freedom

The Tiamzon couple will remain in the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center because the courts handling their cases have yet to issue orders for their release, a police official said on Tuesday.

In a report by Chief Supt. Philip Philips, the director of the PNP Headquarters and Support Service, to PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa, the PNP has so far received one court order for the temporary release of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Phillips told Dela Rosa prior to a PNP command conference that they are still waiting for release orders that will come from three other courts hearing the cases of the Tiamzons.

Once the PNP HSS get all the court orders, the police could release the couple, Phillips said.

The Tiamzons will be part of the formal peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway, this month.

The Tiamzon couple are facing charges of illegal possession of firearms, explosives and ammunitions and harboring of criminals following their arrest in Cebu in March 2014.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa said he expected the CPP-NPA to withdraw its support from the government's anti-illegal drugs campaign so the organization could maintain its relevance in the eyes of the public.

"Dahil kapag sige lang sila, sabay-sabay sa amin mawala 'yung kanilangrelevance," Dela Rosa said in a press briefing in Camp Crame on Tuesday. "Kaya expected ko na 'yan talaga na sasalungat sila sa amin."

In its statement, the CPP said it will no longer join the anti-drug campaign of the Duterte administration, branding it as anti-people.

The government thrust isn't addressing the core issues in the society that lead to proliferation of illegal narcotics, CPP said. The campaign also put poor people to the disadvantage while the privileged and influential are treated differently, it added.


Military assets still on deployment due to 'habagat' onslaught

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): Military assets still on deployment due to 'habagat' onslaught

With the continuing inclement weather brought by the "habagat" or southwest monsoon, the Philippine Army (PA) has deployed four KM-450 trucks with four squads in the towns of Rodriquez and San Mateo, Rizal for possible rescue and pre-emptive evacuation missions.

This was stressed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in its 8:00 a.m. Tuesday update.

As this develops, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s Joint Task Group-National Capital Region has also deployed one KM-450 truck with six personnel, from the Civil-Military Operations, to help the Marikina City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office on the transportation and distribution of relief goods from the Marikina Sports Complex to the Barangay Nangka Evacuation Center.

Two teams from the Army Signals Regiment arrived at the headquarters of the 1st Engineering Combat Company and are now standing watch in Marikina City.

A water search-and-rescue team is also on stand-by for possible rescue missions.


PN: Second SSV more than 60% complete

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): PN: Second SSV more than 60% complete

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s second strategic sealift vessel (SSV) is more than 60 percent complete.

"Second SSV completion is more than 60 percent . Ten PN crew are supervising (the works)," PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said in a message to the PNA Wednesday.

Steel-cutting for the second SSV formally took place on June 6, 2015 at PT PAL (Persero)'s Surabaya shipyard.

The second SSV is scheduled for delivery in May 2017.

The country's first SSV, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), was delivered to the PN last May 14, and commissioned on June 1.

The Philippines has a two SSV order with the Indonesian shipbuilder worth PHP3.8 billion.

BRP Tarlac was assigned to the Philippine Fleet's Sealift Amphibious Force.

The SSV has an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

Her sister-ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017. The ship has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel.

She can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.


Former PA Inspector General assumes command of 9th ID (Limited Bio Data)

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): Former PA Inspector General assumes command of 9th ID

The former Philippine Army (PA) Inspector General, Major Gen. Manolito Orense, formally assumed command of the Camarines Sur-based 9th Infantry Division Tuesday.

He replaced Lt. Gen. Ferdinand F. Quidilla who assumed the leadership of the Quezon-based Southern Luzon Command Monday.

Orense is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983.

His assumption of command ceremonies were presided by PA vice commander Major. Gen. R. Demosthenes C. Santillan.

Among his significant positions both in the Army and AFP units include: Chief of the Unified Command Staff of Eastern Mindanao Command; Commanding Officer of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade; Assistant Commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division; and Chairman of the GPH Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Orense also commanded the 57th Infantry Battalion and the 6th Military Intelligence Battalion based in Mindanao.

He is also a graduate of Command and General Staff Course at AFP Command and General Staff College, Armor Officer Advance Course and Combat Intelligence Course. He is set to retire from the military service on December 2017.

Meanwhile, the designation of Orense is part of the Army's continuing career and leadership development program for its senior officers.


ASG men kidnap 3 in Zamboanga

From The Standard (Aug 17): ASG men kidnap 3 in Zamboanga

SOLDIERS on Monday captured a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf fortified with bunkers, tunnels and foxholes on Hill 355 in Barangay Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan, Major Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said Tuesday.

He said the terrorists abandoned their stronghold following an attack by the military.

Tan made his statement even as MILF Chairman Al Hajj Ebrahim Murad said a peace deal between the government and the rebel Moro groups, including the MILF and the MNLF, will help thwart the increasing influence of the Islamist group ISIS in Mindanao.

“If this process does not prosper, it will be difficult to hold back young people [from joining ISIS-inspired groups],” Murad said in a television interview.

Before capturing the stronghold in Silangkum, soldiers on Sunday seized control of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Barangay Baguindan Proper and at Hill 440.

“The terrain served to secure Abu Sayyaf’s vital mobility and to intimidate nearby communities,” Tan said.

In Salingkum, troops from the 4th Special Forces Battalion seized improvised explosive devices.

“The seized camp has 10 bunkers that can be occupied by more or less seven people, four tunnels that can be occupied by 20 people, several foxholes that can be occupied by eight people, a kitchen hut and one exit post,” Tan said.

In Baguindan, the military assault forced the Abu Sayyaf to abandon their stronghold that is fortified with seven foxholes and 12 bunkers capable of accommodating at least 80 rebels.

Lt. Col. Andrew Bacala Jr., commander of the 4TH Special Forces Battalion, said the capture of the Abu Sayyaf strongholds had weakened the terrorists, capability in Baguindan and in Al-Barka town.


Peace deal with Moros seen to stop ISIS spread

From The Standard (Aug 17): Peace deal with Moros seen to stop ISIS spread

MORO Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Hajj Ebrahim Murad said the peace deal between the government and rebel Moro groups, including the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front, will help thwart the increasing influence of the Islamist group ISIS in Mindanao.

“If this process will not prosper, it is difficult to hold back young people from joining ISIS-inspired groups,” Murad said in a television interview.
CAPTURED FLAG. Filipino soldiers display the flag, in this photo taken on June 3, 2016, used by the Islamic State group after taking over an Abu Sayyaf camp in a far-flung village in Butig, Lanao del Sur. The soldiers captured an Islamic militant training camp after a 10-day battle as part of military operations to clear the remote jungle region of insurgents. AFP file photo
Murad admitted that while they cannot confirm yet whether there are groups in the Philippines that are really tied up with the terror group, there are some groups in the country which is “inspired by ISIS.”

“Small [breakaway] groups can survive now because they have the support of the people. The people still have grievances,” Murad said, referring to the failed Bangsamoro Basic Law whose passage was rammed in Congress.

“Small groups cannot sabotage it [new peace agreement] without the support of the people,” he added.

The MILF, who returned to the implementation table with the government to pursue its Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, has set up a special group that will counter the possibility of ISIS-related groups entering Philippines.

“They [breakaway groups] can capitalize on the grievances of the people. That is what we are trying to counter now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has proposed the creation of sea lanes in the common boarders of Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia to monitor and identify navigators in the southern water.

This was disclosed by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 following his official visit in Kuala Lumpur.

During a meeting with the government peace panel in Malaysia, Dureza said, Razak proposed the regulation of sea lanes wherein certain approved lanes can be used to conduct trade and those that are not can be deemed as hostile.

Anybody navigating outside agreed sea lane can be accosted and can be interdicted,” said Dureza.

Dureza said the Malaysian leader was optimistic over the success of (peace) talks, noting that a number of cabinet members of President Rodrigo Duterte came from Mindanao.

“The prime minister discussed the enormous potential of Mindanao and vowed to work with President Duterte, who hails from Mindanao, to deliver the island’s economic promise,” he said, adding that the meeting was formal yet cordial.

The sea lane, it said, would be protected and secured from others and “bad elements as we also strict in order to avoid this foremost borders to be used by criminal elements as we also mutually strengthen the flow of people from good service from port to port.”

Malaysia, Indonesia as well as the Philippines shared the common borders which are set to implement the sea lane for possible threat from the ISIS.


If China builds in Scarborough Shoal, it would come ‘after G20 summit’

From the South China Morning Post (Aug 13): If China builds in Scarborough Shoal, it would come ‘after G20 summit’ (By Minnie Chan)

Beijing might begin reclamation in the disputed atoll – 230km west of Manila – after leaders gather in Hangzhou next month but before the US presidential election, source says

China will not carry out any reclamation work in the Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea before hosting the G20 summit next month, but it might begin construction before the US presidential election in November, a source familiar with the matter said.
Beijing would also avoid taking any provocative action in the shoal right now given the Philippines had expressed a willingness to explore new ways to resolve their dispute, he said.
Special Philippine envoy Fidel Ramos wrapped up his ice-breaking trip in Hong Kong on Friday, after meeting representatives of China. Ramos, acting on behalf of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said Manila wanted formal discussions to avoid further tensions over the South China Sea, where several nations have competing claims.
“Since the G20 will be held in Hangzhou next month, and regional peace will be the main topic among leaders of the great powers, China will refrain from [acting on the] reclamation plan,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
But Beijing might seize an opportunity to reclaim land at the atoll in the Spratly Islands before the Americans vote for a new president on November 8, he said.
A Chinese coastguard boat sprays a water cannon at Philippine fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in this photo from September last year provided by one of the fishermen. Photo: AP

The atoll, about 230km west of Manila, is claimed by Beijing, Manila and Taipei. Chinese coastguard ships took control of the area in 2012 after a tense stand-off with Philippine vessels.
“US President Barack Obama will focus on domestic issues ahead of the election as he needs to pass down legacies before leaving office. That might make him busy and he might not have time to take care of regional security issues,” he said.
China has sent more than a dozen security vessels near the shoal in recent weeks, compared with the usual two or three, news site Washington Free Beacon reported, citing US defence officials.
China appears to be sending a flotilla of hundreds of fishing vessels to the shoal in an action similar to what is happening in the East China Sea, according to the Beacon.
Japanese coastguard officials said they had spotted seven Chinese government vessels and more than 200 fishing vessels operating around the waters of the Diaoyus by Wednesday. The islands are controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkakus.
China’s seasonal moratorium on fishing ended this month, and the nation needed to send warships to the shoal to protect its fishermen, according to Beijing-based military expert Song Zhongping. The security situation in the waters was not safe for Chinese fishing boats after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague rejected Beijing’s historical claims to the area on July 12, Song said.
“Many Philippine fishermen swarmed into the atoll after the unfair ruling, increasing security uncertainties in the waters, which is why the Chinese military has to increase patrols,” Song said.
Ramos told a press conference in Hong Kong he discussed the issue of fishing rights in the South China Sea with Fu Ying, the chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress.
Ex-interior secretary Rafael Alunan said talks with the Chinese side included the possibility of setting up a “two-track” system that would allow them to cooperate in some areas while separately handling “contentious issues”.
Fishermen clean their vessel at a dock in Sanya, in China’s Hainan province in May. China this month ended its seasonal ban on fishing in the South China Sea. Photo: Xinhua

Last week, PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke confirmed Beijing had sent H-6K bombers and Su-30 fighter jets to conduct patrols in the region, including the Scarborough Shoal.
The shoal is “one of Beijing’s key strategic positions in the South China Sea ... China will definitely build up maritime security forces on it if other countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, start construction projects in the region,” Song said.
Professor Wang Hanling, a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Beacon’s report was aimed at sowing discord between Beijing and Manila, and blamed Washington and Tokyo.
“The US and Japan are unhappy to see Ramos’ meeting with senior Chinese diplomat Fu Ying in Hong Kong, worrying Manila is walking too close to Beijing,” Wang said.
The source said it was “ a must for China” to build an outpost in the shoal, which would extend the reach of the air force in the region by at least 1,000km and close a gap in coverage off Luzon, the gateway to the Pacific.
The source added that China should build an airstrip on the shoal and establish an early warning system on Macclesfield Bank, just east of the Paracels. Doing so would allow China “to keep an eye” on the US naval base at Guam.
The Pentagon said last month that it would replace B-52 bombers at the base with the more advanced B-1 bombers, with the deployment slated for last Saturday.
China can already land aircraft at Woody Island, and three additional airstrips are believed to have been built at Mischief, Fiery Cross and Subi reefs in the Spratlys.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion in annual trade passes. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have rival claims.

Abu Sayyaf terrorists suspected of abducting teacher in Philippines

From United Press International (UPI): Abu Sayyaf terrorists suspected of abducting teacher in Philippines

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen abducted a public elementary school teacher while she was on her way to work Tuesday in the village of Kanague in Patikul town, in the southern island province of Sulu, police said.

Edrina Manalas Bonsil, 30, was traveling in a Jeep when five gunmen flagged down the vehicle and took her with force around 8 a.m., said Maj. Filemon Tan, Jr., a Western Mindanao Command spokesman. They fled on foot toward the village of Kabbon Takas, also in Patikul.

No one claimed responsibility for the abduction, but police said Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist separatist organization known for violence in the Philippines, may be behind it.

The military official said troops of the Army's 32nd and 10th infantry battalions have launched pursuit operations in a bid to rescue the teacher. A total of 16 people, including Bonsil, are thought to now be in the hands of the jihadist bandits in the Muslim region in Sulu.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops last week to intensify anti-terrorism efforts, including operations against Abu Sayyaf.

Last month, Abu Sayyaf militants abducted at gunpoint three people, including a pregnant woman, from a multi-cab, a light truck used for public transportation, in Timpook.


Here's How the Philippines can Win in the South China Sea

From Foreign Policy (Aug 16): Here's How the Philippines can Win in the South China Sea (By James Holmes)

A third-century Roman dictator may have the answers.

Here’s How the Philippines Can Win in the South China Sea

The Philippine Islands has a problem. It has international law on its side in its quarrel with China over maritime territory, but no policeman walking his beat to enforce the law. That means that, despite an international court’s findings, the dispute over rocks and islands off Philippine shores is far from over. On Aug. 2, China’s defense minister, Chang Wanquan, even said China must prepare for a “people’s war” at sea. That leaves strategy as Manila’s lone recourse; yet China overshadows the Philippines in every imaginable metric of national power.

But as I wrote in 2012, when South China Sea tensions were heating up, while the Philippines has “no chance of winning in combat” with China, “it may win a peacetime confrontation.” The hope for Philippine leaders, then as now, was to conjure the career of Fabius Maximus, the Roman dictator nicknamed “Cunctator,” or “the Delayer.” Fabius advised confounding antagonists through inventive strategy and tactics, constructing alliances to augment strength, and remaining united and resolute at home.

The Delayer spoke from experience. Greek historian Plutarch relates how Fabius envisioned combating Hannibal, who “burst into Italy” across the Alps in 218 B.C. and went on a rampage. Romans, accordingly, granted Fabius emergency powers to repel the threat. Fabius appeared unperturbed despite the menace in Italy’s midst. He reasoned that given time, Rome could amass power sufficient to vanquish the invaders. So he abjured efforts to crush the Carthaginians in an afternoon and postponed a battlefield decision.

The Fabian playbook is essentially this: (1) Exercise self-discipline, subduing your passion for quick victory. Refuse to fight a stronger foe on its own terms. (2) Keep your alliances robust, supplementing your strength. (3) Tend to the home front, sustaining political unity for a prolonged struggle while husbanding the sinews of national power. And (4) be patient. Let the foe exhaust its fervor over time, yielding an acceptable peace.

It’s likely Fabius would have smiled at Manila’s courtroom triumph. It’s precisely the sort of stratagem he would have deployed when confronting a power mismatch.
It’s likely Fabius would have smiled at Manila’s courtroom triumph. It’s precisely the sort of stratagem he would have deployed when confronting a power mismatch. Unable to dissuade a muscle-bound China through diplomatic persuasion or overpower it through economic or military might, Philippine officials took their case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which last month struck down Beijing’s claim to de facto ownership of most of the South China Sea — including much of the Philippine “exclusive economic zone” (EEZ), the offshore belt of sea where coastal states enjoy exclusive rights to harvest natural resources from the water and seafloor. Most strikingly, the jurists pronounced Beijing’s map of Southeast Asia, which bears a “nine-dash line” enclosing most of the South China Sea and delineating waters where China claims “indisputable sovereignty,” as bunk.

Under the doctrine of indisputable sovereignty, China would make the rules governing seaborne endeavors in the South China Sea. The logic behind China’s stance was simple: the warrior who does battle on unfamiliar ground fights at a marked disadvantage relative to the warrior fighting on home ground. China wants to keep prospective foes like the U.S. Navy from knowing the theater’s physical terrain and underwater geography, and to keep them from working with Southeast Asian allies before the outbreak of war. If successful, it can cripple its rivals operationally.

But while the UNCLOS tribunal ruled China’s overreach unlawful, the court has no enforcement arm. China refused to take part in the legal proceedings, rejected the ruling, and, for good measure, flew a nuclear-capable bomber over Scarborough Shoal afterward, which the Chinese coast-guard vessels wrested from the Philippine Navy four years ago, precipitating the dispute.

Confronted with Chinese intransigence, Philippine leaders need to go back to Fabius’ playbook.

Having seized control of the narrative, for one thing, Manila must hang onto it. China wages “three warfares” 24/7/365, employing media, psychological, and legal outlets to mold opinion in its favor. The Philippines must reply in kind, telling its story well and telling it often. The UNCLOS tribunal ruling should become a standard talking point.

And spokesmen must fold pictures and video into Philippine public diplomacy. I am a close watcher of South China Sea issues, but I have yet to unearth a slick, visually impressive statement about the problem and how Philippine policy addresses it. For instance, Manila’s initial official account of the Scarborough Shoal standoff, dating from April 2012, shows a few grainy pictures of boats containing contraband coral, clams, and sharks harvested from the waters around the shoal. There is nothing to put the standoff in context — say, by showing the Philippine Navy facing off against Chinese fishing and law-enforcement vessels. Nor does the shoal itself appear. That set an unfortunate pattern for Philippine public diplomacy from then until now. Manila must show people what China is doing and, in the case of fellow Asian powers, remind them they may be next if China gets away with grabbing something just because it can.

Second, Fabius beseeched Rome to nurture its alliances, a major reserve of Roman power. Manila must likewise aim its opinion-shaping efforts at current and prospective partners. It has no military option of its own. After all, the Philippine Navy is centered on three elderly U.S. Coast Guard cutters painted gray and renamed frigates. China’s navy would make short work of them in battle.

In this regard, multinational bodies offer little promise. The UN Security Council could act. But China is a permanent member of the Security Council, wielding veto power over any resolution. ASEAN could act, but it isn’t a military alliance, and its members make decisions by consensus in any event. (Just last month, Cambodia nixed an effort to release a joint statement heralding the UNCLOS tribunal’s decision.)

That leaves formal or informal alliances. A mutual defense treaty has bound the United States to the Philippine Islands since 1951. The pact obliges America to defend not just the main islands but “island territories under [Manila’s] jurisdiction.” Washington has inched closer and closer to declaring that the treaty applies to offshore islands and atolls, as well as underwater features such as Scarborough Shoal. But it hasn’t quite gotten there. Until then, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should beware of hinting that he might barter away the contested territory, which is one very plausible outcome of one-on-one negotiations. Why would the U.S. bother defending something its ally might give away? Stand firm, Mr. President — and let friendly powers see you do so.
 That will help with Fabius’ third strategic imperative: steadying the home front for a long struggle.
The Philippine electorate, like those anywhere, will come down hard on national leaders who appear to be dickering away sovereign rights and dignity.
The Philippine electorate, like those anywhere, will come down hard on national leaders who appear to be dickering away sovereign rights and dignity. The good news is that Duterte appears to have internalized this lesson since taking office. In the wake of the UNCLOS tribunal’s ruling, Duterte told a visiting U.S. congressional delegation that the court’s decision is “non-negotiable.” That’s a message that will resonate with Philippine constituents as well as abroad.

Lastly, Fabius would counsel Philippine leaders to protract the competition until China’s fervor subsides. How long will that take, and will China abandon its aims at all? It’s hard to see how Beijing could ever formally give them up. Chinese Communist Party leaders staked national dignity and prestige on an empty claim to ownership of the maritime common. They portrayed the common as sacred territory that has belonged to China since antiquity, and made themselves accountable to nationalist sentiment — which they themselves set ablaze.

The best the Philippines and its friends can hope for is that Beijing will mellow out over time. It can never cancel its maritime claims altogether, for fear of fueling popular fury. But it could, perhaps, shelve them quietly for the sake of regional amity — as party potentates like Deng Xiaoping once did. Beijing could stop pressing its claims day in and day out.

To be sure, students of Roman history would affix a coda to all of this, pointing out that Fabius didn’t win Rome’s war against Hannibal; Cornelius Scipio did. Fabian strategy wasn’t enough. Fabius had to defend himself constantly from hotheads thirsting for decisive victory, and Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli opined that Fabius proved unable to escape his defensive-minded instincts. Rome needed a Scipio: a brash, offensive-minded, risk-taking commander. Scipio carried the fight across the Mediterranean Sea, marching on Carthage itself. Scipio’s army crushed Hannibal in North Africa, at the Battle of Zama, putting an end to the Second Punic War and earning the honorific Africanus for his exploits.

That endgame hints at the frustrations awaiting Manila. With no Scipio in waiting, Manila must resign itself indefinitely to stalling tactics. It must be more Fabian than Rome was, placing heavy emphasis on its alliances.

Then again, lesser antagonists have used just this strategy many times over the centuries, sometimes with rousing success. Look no farther than American shores. In 1777, Alexander Hamilton — who served on George Washington’s staff and reformed the Continental Army before becoming a star of stage and screenboasted to Robert Livingston about the army’s “Fabian conduct.” Rather than offer battle, and perhaps lose the Revolutionary War in an afternoon, Hamilton urged American forces to “perplex and fret” the redcoats. In so doing, Washington & Co. would “precipitate” British commanders “into measures” that Americans could “turn to good account.”
“Our business,” concluded Hamilton, “is to avoid a general engagement and waste the enemy away by constantly goading their sides, in a desultory teasing way.” In the meantime, the colonists tapped European help to construct a fighting force capable of facing British redcoats.

Speaking of America: if a Scipio-like commander capable of deterring or vanquishing China appears, it will probably be in the form of an American naval commander. That should concentrate minds in Manila. Staying on good terms with one’s superpower patron is sound strategy. Reassuring Washington of Philippine steadfastness, liberalizing U.S. military access to bases close to likely scenes of action, and widening Manila’s circle of allies represent obvious steps for Duterte and his advisers.
Entrusting vital interests to foreigners is less than satisfying for a proud society like the Philippines. The Philippines would surely have preferred to declare victory after years of Fabian strategy yielded a legal ruling starkly in Manila’s favor. But such is life when small powers square off against big ones. It’s time to dust off the Fabian playbook once again.

BIFF blamed for failed drug raid

From the Manila Times (Aug 15): BIFF blamed for failed drug raid

Authorities are eyeing members of the jihadist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for sabotaging a drug raid in Cotabato that resulted in the killing of four government forces and the wounding of eight others.

The predawn raid on Sunday on known lairs of the BIFF in Liguasan Marsh, along the border of the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, was conducted in wake of reports that the jihadists and other radical groups have teamed up with drug syndicates to counter law-enforcement operations.

Combined forces of the police and the military swooped down on Sitio Ipil-Ipil in Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap town at about 4:30 a.m., supposedly to serve search warrants for illegal drugs against Moks Masgal, alias Commander Mabrook, a former member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The raiding team was met with a volley of gunfire from .50 caliber machine guns, prompting them to fire back.

The team had to request air bombardment support at the height of the firefight.

Killed in the clash were Police Officer 3 Darwin Espallardo of North Cotabato police; Cpl. Jose Miravalles and Private First Class (Pfc) Jaypee Duran, both of Division Reconnaissance Company; and an unidentified military guide.

The military identified only five of the eight wounded in action as Sgt. Arinio Grafil, Cpl. Diocesar Espanola, Pfc. Romnick Clerigo and Privates Normel Grande and Edgar Gegone, all of the 6th Division Reconnaissance Company.

Col. Manolo Samarita, commander of the Philippine Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade based in Cotabato, said the suspects and Mabrook, who were able to escape, are members of the BIFF, not the MILF that has signed an interim peace agreement with the government.

The MILF had said it supports the government’s campaign against proliferation of illegal drugs.

The BIFF, which rejected the Mindanao peace process, is a splinter group of the MILF and among jihadist groups in the country that had pledged allegiance to the international extremist group Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

Earlier, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, revealed that drug lords have tied up with the local affiliate of the ISIS and the BIFF allegedly to kill him and President Rodrigo Duterte.

The claim was, however, denied by the BIFF and other radical groups in southern Mindanao, saying drug addiction is completely haram or prohibited in the Islamic religion.

The radical groups, however, admitted that some of their members have a history of drug addiction but have since been subjected to “ideological reform.”